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    Ice Rescue Techniques

    Ice Rescue Techniques

    Photo By Pamela Doty | By R.J. Garren read more read more



    Story by Pamela Doty 

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Water Safety

    News stories this winter are regularly reporting about people falling through icy natural bodies of water, such as lakes and ponds. Do you know what to do to perform a self-rescue if this happens to you or a safe rescue if it happens to someone else?

    If you venture out onto the ice to recreate, you must have a survival plan for what to do if you fall through. The best plan starts with wearing a coverall flotation wet suit or insulated dry suit with flotation or a life jacket. You should also carry ice picks or safety spikes. If you fall through ice, turn towards the direction you came from, because that is most likely to have the thickest ice. Kick your legs to “swim” out horizontally and get your body as far out onto the ice as you can. Use your sharp objects to pull yourself out with your arms onto your elbows. You may need to wait briefly for some water to drain from your clothes in order to be able to pull yourself out farther. Once you’re out, stay lying flat and roll away from the hole to keep your weight spread out or you may fall through again.

    It’s important to know that in the first cold-shock stage of cold-water immersion you must catch your breath in the first couple minutes. You will have approximately 10-minutes in the second cold-water immersion stage, called cold-water-incapacitation, when you can still move your arms and legs. It can take an hour before hypothermia begins. Exact times on the different stages of cold-water immersion will depend on the water temperature, but it’s important to stay calm and know that you have time to be rescued.

    If you see someone fall through the ice, the first thing to do is call 911 or your local emergency number. You must resist the temptation to go near the hole or in after someone. Heroics by well-meaning, but untrained rescuers, too often results in multiple deaths. Proper rescue involves techniques commonly referred to as “Preach, Reach, Throw, Row, Go”, but only professionally-trained ice rescuers should leave the safety of the shore to perform an ice rescue. Preaching involves coaching a person through the self-rescue process. Encourage them to remain calm and let them know help is on its way. If they have safety spikes or any sharp objects in their pocket (i.e. car key, pocket knife), coach them in using sharp objects to anchor themselves to the edge of the ice. From the safety of the shore you may be able to reach with something you can extend to help pull the victim out (i.e. rope, pole, branch, or items of clothing) or throw something that floats (life jacket, cooler, spare tire etc.) to assist the victim in floating until professional help arrives. If you are attempting to pull someone out of the water, it’s best that you wear a life jacket and stay low to the ground. It’s also a good idea to get others to help by holding onto you.

    Professionally trained rescuers have personal protective equipment (PPE) suits (i.e. dry suits with thermal linings) that help protect them from the cold water in case they have to enter the water. Before going after someone, professionals have taglines connected to someone or something on the shore and to a reliable point on the rescuer’s suit and to their vessel or buoyant platform, if one is used. The ice thickness will dictate whether or not the rescuer approaches by going after someone with a vessel or buoyant platform, which is referred to as the “row” technique. Their PPE suits are inherently buoyant, but many advocate for wearing a life jacket too because most PPE suits are designed to provide adequate buoyancy for the rescuer, but possibly not enough buoyancy for the rescuer and the person being rescued.
    Once a tagline is attached to a rescuer, they may progress across the ice in the prone position using safety spikes or in a three-point search stance testing and prodding the ice ahead when they’re not using a vessel. Once the rescuer gets close to the hole, they can attempt to get a body sling or other rescue device around the person and pull them out. If this doesn't work, the rescuer may have to enter the water to physically secure the person they are trying to rescue. Professional ice rescue teams have all kinds of rescue tools designed to keep them safe and quickly rescue someone without them having to enter the water.
    Anyone affected by cold water in the rescue process needs to immediately get to a warm, dry, sheltered area to re-warm. It’s best for anyone who has spent time in cold water to get medical attention. After you begin to re-warm, cold blood trapped in your extremities can come rushing back to your heart. The shock of that may cause ventricular fibrillation leading to cardiac arrest.

    In summary, wear and bring proper equipment if you plan to recreate on the ice. Learn how to rescue yourself after falling through the ice and coach someone else through the self-rescue process. Don’t risk losing your own life and leave the on-ice and in-water rescuing to trained professionals!



    Date Taken: 01.23.2020
    Date Posted: 01.23.2020 13:39
    Story ID: 360091
    Location: US

    Web Views: 145
    Downloads: 0